GMA chooses Corona as next chief justice

- Paolo Romero -

MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo has chosen her former chief of staff, Senior Associate Justice Renato Corona, as the next chief justice, Malacañang announced yesterday.

The choice, which was widely expected, was announced a day after Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who appears headed for a landslide victory in the presidential race, vowed to prosecute Mrs. Arroyo for corruption and other anomalies within 100 days of assuming the presidency.

Following Mrs. Arroyo’s selection of the next chief justice, Malacañang warned Aquino to respect the appointment of Corona.

Critics said Corona’s appointment aimed to shield the President from graft investigations by her successor.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said they expected Corona’s appointment to be met with some criticism, “but the fact is this (issue) was brought to the Supreme Court and it has handed down a ruling that is final and executory.”

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raoul Victorino added the appointment of Corona was in accordance with the Supreme Court (SC) decision on the issue.

“The President has chosen Supreme Court Associate Justice Renato Corona to be the next chief justice when incumbent Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17,” presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo announced.

“His appointment takes

effect upon Chief Justice Puno’s retirement,” he said.

Saludo defended the appointment of Corona as the next chief justice. He said Corona is the logical choice since he is the most senior SC magistrate that 0had been nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) before Mrs. Arroyo.

Malacañang noted the statements of Aquino, who repeatedly warned that he would not recognize the appointment if he is elected president.

Aquino warned Corona might face impeachment.

Victorino, on the other hand, maintained the appointment is legal and constitutional.

“Nobody can question the announcement and eventually the appointment of Mr. Justice Corona,” Victorino said.

“Whoever will be the incoming president – if you’re referring to Sen. Aquino – he has all the right to question (the appointment) but all questions must be addressed to the Supreme Court. Nobody can question that, not even the president-elect,” he said.

At the same time, Mendoza and Victorino dismissed allegations that Corona would be beholden to the outgoing President and shield her from possible graft investigations by the next administration.

“How can (Corona) be beholden when she is no longer president after June 30?” Victorino remarked.

Mrs. Arroyo promised to ensure a smooth transition before her term ends on June 30. But her appointment of Corona as the next chief magistrate sparked renewed accusations that she is trying to put allies in key position before leaving office.

Corona was Mrs. Arroyo’s chief of staff when she was the vice president and also for a year after she became president in 2001.

Corona was one of the youngest magistrates to be appointed to the SC in April 2002.

Of the 15 SC justices, 14 are appointees of Mrs. Arroyo. Mrs. Arroyo chose Corona over three other contenders: SC Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Sandiganbayan acting Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

Mendoza admitted all of the SC justices except for Puno were Mrs. Arroyo’s appointees but pointed out the High Court, in several instances, even went against the President by handing down decisions unfavorable to her administration.

But when the SC ruled to allow Mrs. Arroyo to name the next chief justice notwithstanding the constitutional prohibition on midnight appointments, it sparked protests that she was trying to protect herself from possible prosecution.


Critics bewailed the appointment of Corona, with vice presidential front-runner Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay claiming Mrs. Arroyo’s act was inappropriate.

“I sincerely believe that she should not have touched, legal or personal, the appointment of chief justice of the Supreme Court. For delicadeza, she should have left the appointment of the (next) chief justice to the next president,” Binay said.

Former President Joseph Estrada, through his spokesperson, said the appointment of Corona was “ingenious.”

“How ingenious of President Arroyo to position her former chief of staff and spokesman as chief justice under an administration that is poised to investigate her administration’s anomalies,” Estrada’s spokesperson Margaux Salcedo said.

Puno supports Corona

On the other hand, the SC hailed the decision of Mrs. Arroyo in choosing Corona as the next chief justice.

According to SC spokesman Midas Gutierrez, retiring Chief Justice Puno personally vouched for the integrity of Corona and chose him as his successor.

Gutierrez said Puno is expected to issue a statement during his retirement ceremony tomorrow.

“Chief Justice Puno is one of those who voted for Justice Corona in the JBC shortlist submitted to Malacañang. This means the retiring chief justice believes in the independence and integrity of the chosen successor,” Marquez said.

Marquez downplayed allegations that the appointment of Corona by Mrs. Arroyo could compromise the integrity and independence of the SC.

“Ascribing partiality or partisanship due to past relation can be unfair,” Marquez said.

He cited as example the independence shown by other magistrates appointed by Mrs. Arroyo to the SC.

“If you look at their ponencias (decisions) you will find independence of mind. There were many times when they voted against the position of the Palace on major cases,” he said.

Marquez said the SC has yet to receive the official appointment letter of Corona.

He said Malacañang made the announcement just yesterday but the appointment would probably take effect on Monday.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t think you can call it appointment already. It was just an announcement and that is the prerogative of the executive department,” Marquez explained.

Several groups, including officials of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), also welcomed the appointment of Corona.

Roan Libarios, a member of IBP Board of Governors, said their organization agreed with the appointment of Corona, the selection process of which was already affirmed by the SC.

“As lawyers we can only respect the process and since Justice Corona is part of the SC and number two in the seniority of the SC and endorsed by the JBC as one of the candidates for the chief of the SC then we respect the nomination of the JBC,” Libarios said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, a lawyer by profession, said there is no legal recourse against the appointment.

“I may disagree with the decision of the court (SC) and even the move of the President, but there is no other recourse but to accept it,” he said.

Escudero said the SC had already ruled on the issue and there is nothing in the law that may support possible legal remedy against the appointment of Corona.

“I had hoped that even if the JBC has submitted the list, that President Arroyo will not appoint (the next chief justice)… but the SC has ruled,” he said.

Another group of lawyers led by former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo vowed to question Corona’s appointment.

Marcelo, president of the Philippine Bar Association, said they would support moves to impeach Corona.

Marcelo appealed to Corona to reject the appointment, warning he could be liable for culpable violation of the Constitution.

Marcelo said the SC ruling allowing Mrs. Arroyo to name the next chief justice is not yet final since there is a pending resolution of their second motion for reconsideration.

“I also believe that (Corona) should reject this appointment if he was true to his words and tears during the public interview with the JBC where he said he has nothing more to ask for – even the chief justice position. Otherwise, it was really a scripted drama,” Marcelo said.

Corona, for his part, reserved comment.

“I will just speak after I take my oath of office. I don’t know when that will be,” Corona said. –With Edu Punay, Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, Jose Rodel Clapano, Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla, Michael Punongbayan









  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with